A Mozilla executive knocked off Microsoft’s decision to abandon support for the decade old Windows XP operating system in the new Internet Explorer 9 browser.
Johnathan Nightingale, the director of Mozilla’s Firefox refused to be drawn into the debate over which browser sported the best hardware acceleration on Windows Vista and Windows 7. Instead, he pointed out that Microsoft dropped XP. “For me, the most interesting thing isn’t the quibbling about what browser [boasts] full hardware acceleration,” Nightingale said in an interview last Thursday. “What surprises me the most is that acceleration isn’t available for XP.”
Both IE9 and Firefox 4 support hardware acceleration on Vista and Windows 7 by calling on those operating systems’ Direct2D and Direct3D APIs for content rendering and compositing. XP, however, doesn’t support Direct2D, leaving Mozilla to partially accelerate Firefox 4 using Direct3D on the aged OS.
“That took us a lot of work. We had to do almost twice the work to accelerate [Firefox 4] on Vista and Windows 7, and XP,” said Nightingale. “But by our count, XP still accounts for 40% to 50% of the Web. Our obligation is to the users, and XP isn’t a part we can cut out.”
Statistics from Web analytics firm Net Apps show that XP accounted for 55% of all operating systems used to connect to Internet last month, making it the most popular OS by far. When only those systems running Windows were tallied, XP’s share jumped to 61%. By comparison, Vista and Windows 7 together accounted for 38% of all versions of Windows used to reach the Web last month.
Other browser makers have taken Mozilla’s tack, and will continue to support Windows XP. The newest versions of Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari for Windows and Opera Software’s Opera all run on XP.
Firefox 4.0 final version is now avilable for download.